PARIS - French police arrested 19 people suspected of "radical" Islamist activity in raids on Friday, March 30, in several cities, including Toulouse, scene of a spate of killings.
"It's in connection with a form of Islamist radicalism," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Europe-1 radio.
"There will be other operations that will continue and that will allow us to expel from our national territory a certain number of people who have no reason to be here."
A police source said the suspects were arrested in raids in Toulouse in the southwest, Nantes in western France and in the Paris region and southeast France.
Several television channels showed images of the early morning raids, Reuters reported.
Commandos were seen bashing down doors, smashing windows, and taking suspects away with handcuffed and with their faces covered.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said five rifles, three Kalashnikovs, four automatic handguns and a bullet-proof vest had been found among other items.
"These are people who ... claimed they were acting for an extremely violent, jihadist and combat ideology," Gueant told reporters after meeting Muslim associations in Paris.
"They had a paramilitary type of training," he said without confirming if those arrested were preparing attacks.
The swoops followed the killings of seven people, including three Muslim soldiers and three Jewish children, in a spate of shooting by an Al-Qaeda-inspired gunman in Toulouse.
Following the shootings, Sarkozy has announced a crackdown on what he says were fueling hatred in France.
Earlier this week, the French government banned the entry of four Muslim scholars on allegations of fueling hatred.
The police source several of the people arrested were believed to be close to Islamist group called Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride) that was recently outlawed.
Gueant said the group's leader, Mohammed Achamlane, had also been arrested in Nantes.
Founded in 2010, Forsane Alizza came to prominence after calling that year for the boycott of Macdonald's in the central city of Limoges accusing the US fast food chain of serving Israel.
Achamlane told the daily Liberation in January that the group could not exclude launching an armed struggle "if Islamophobia continues to intensify day by day".
Before the Toulouse attacks, the group staged protests against government ban on Muslim street prayers and face-veil.
Gueant dissolved the group in February, accusing it of preparing its supporters for armed struggle.
Gilles Kepel, political scientist and specialist in Islam, said the group operated more on the internet, but never actually turning to violence."It's a big show, but obviously spreading ideas that can cause problems," he told Reuters.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net